-Chief Justice Korkpor to Judge Kontoe
Chief Justice Francis Korkpor was on Friday, November 9, heard reminding Judge Boima Kontoe during the re-argument hearing of the Writ of Prohibition prayed for by suspended Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, that he was not elevated to Ja’neh’s seat on the bench at the Supreme Court.
Kontoe was recently appointed by President George Weah as an ad hoc justice to fill Ja’neh’s vacancy on the bench, due to the failure of four of the five justices to reach a quorum to grant or reject the prohibition prayed for by Justice Ja’neh against his impeachment by the majority members of the House of Representatives.
At the Joint Chambers of the Supreme Court which was packed with lawyers, Justice Korkpor said, Kontoe’s appointment was to break the tie because, as justices, they voted and did not find a quorum on the prohibition.
“Your appointment is purposely intended for the hearing of the case and to break the tie and you are not elevated to remain on Ja’neh’s seat,” Korkpor maintained.
Prior to occupying Ja’neh’s seat on the bench, Korkpor was openly heard instructing his marshall (court security) to escort Kontoe to Ja’neh’s seat on the bench.
“Marshall, please escort Judge Kontoe to Ja’neh’s seat on the bench, but (speaking to Kontoe), carrying you to Ja’neh seat does not mean that you are elevated to the bench,” Korkpor reminded Kontoe.
At Friday’s deliberation, which was intended for both the Ja’neh legal team and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), representing the legal interest of the House of Representative, to re-argue the prohibition in the presence of Kontoe, the Ja’neh team later filed an application praying the court not to suppress the earlier argument of the ministry.
Cllr. Johnny Momoh, representing Justice Ja’neh, said his reason was that the inclusion of the ministry by the Supreme Court was intended for it to only advise the court on the issue of the law and not for it to represent the legal interest of the lawmakers.
“You wrote the ministry to provide legal advice on the matter and do not serve as lawyers for the legislators. Their argument is a complete contradiction to the communication. As such, their earlier argument must be dismissed and quashed,” Momoh maintained.
The ministry’s argument was prompted by the lawmakers’ refusal to accept the court’s invitation to attend the prohibition hearing, citing that it was obstructing their legislative functions concerning the preparation of a bill of impeachment against Justice Ja’neh.
It was based on the lawmakers’ refusal that the court wrote and invited the ministry to advise them on the law. In counter-argument, Solicitor General Cllr. Daku Mulbah admitted that they were invited by the court to advise on the issue of the law.
But, according to Mulbah, as the legal arm of the government, they were clothed with the authority to represent the legal interest of any public institution and government employees, the legislature being no exception.
“If they knew that we were not to argue on behalf of the legislature, why could they not raise the objection during the hearing of the first argument,” Mulbah wondered. “Since it did not happen and they are raising it now, makes it late and should be dismissed.”
Meanwhile, ruling into that argument was later reserved indefinitely.